Lee Daniels files to dismiss Sean Penn's $10 million defamation lawsuit: 'The First Amendment is not for sale'

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

Sean Penn Sues 'Empire' Co-Creator Lee Daniels

Lee Daniels filed to dismiss Sean Penn's $10 million defamation lawsuit against him on Thursday. Daniels' latest legal move comes one day after Empire's midseason finale.

In the filing obtained by ET, Daniels calls Penn's lawsuit "an assault on the First Amendment."

"With fame, money and high-priced legal counsel, Penn has the power to buy most things," the documents read. "Fortunately for Daniels, the First Amendment is not for sale. It protects Daniels and others from lawsuits like this one, financially-draining attacks brought to punish free speech exercised to Penn's chagrin."

Penn, 55, filed the defamation suit in September, claiming that 55-year-old Daniels made "false and defamatory statements" about him in an interview where the producer brought up Penn while discussing Terrence Howard's history of domestic violence abuse.

WATCH: Sean Penn Sues Lee Daniels for Defamation Over Comparing Him to Terrence Howard

"[Terrence] ain't done nothing different than Marlon Brando or Sean Penn, and all of a sudden he's some f***in' demon... That's a sign of the times, of race, of where we are right now in America," The Hollywood Reporter quoted Daniels as saying.

13 PHOTOS
Lee Daniels
See Gallery
Lee Daniels files to dismiss Sean Penn's $10 million defamation lawsuit: 'The First Amendment is not for sale'
Director Lee Daniels arrives for the Screen Actors Guild Foundation's 30th anniversary celebration, November 5, 2015 at the Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts in Beverly Hills, California. AFP PHOTO / ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Honoree Lee Daniels accepts the Patron of the Artists Award onstage during the Screen Actors Guild Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on November 5, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for Screen Actors Guild Foundation)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 12: Lee Daniels attends the 'Empire' Series Season 2 New York Premiere at Carnegie Hall on September 12, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
THE VIEW - Lee Daniels and Dr. Ruth Westheimer are the guests today, Tuesday, September 22, 2105 on ABC's 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 pm, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 05: Singer Mariah Carey and director Lee Daniels at the Mariah Carey Star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame on August 5, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 31: CEO, Lee Daniels speaks at the 7th Annual Produced By Conference at Paramount Studios on May 31, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ISCHIA, ITALY - JULY 16: Lee Daniels and Trudie Styler attend 2015 Ischia Global Film & Music Fest - Day 4 on July 16, 2015 in Ischia, Italy. (Photo by Venturelli/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 13: Producer Lee Daniels attends A Tribute To African-American Achievements In Television hosted by The Paley Center For Media at Cipriani Wall Street on May 13, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 11: Writer/director and event honoree Lee Daniels poses with his award during the 10th Annual Family Equality Council Night at The Pier held at Pier 60 on May 11, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Brent N. Clarke/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 04: Model Naomi Campbell and producer Lee Daniels attend 'China: Through the Looking Glass', the 2015 Costume Institute Gala, at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 4, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Lee Daniels attends the 2015 Time 100 Gala at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 21, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew Toth/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 08: Lee Daniels and Sarah Treem attend the The Hollywood Radio and Television Society's Annual Hitmakers Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on April 8, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

In the Dec. 3 filing, Daniels calls Penn's lawsuit "a blunt force instrument wielded in an attempt to control the narrative of his life" and calls upon the actor to prove the statement is defamatory.

"While Penn may have personally experienced the challenged statement as offensive, he must now demonstrate that the statement is reasonably susceptible to a defamatory meaning. He has not, and cannot," the documents read. "The challenged statement is constitutionally protected opinion, and New York courts have repeatedly emphasized the need to summarily reject defamation claims brought to bully those who dare exercise their constitutional right of free speech."

Penn's initial lawsuit reads: "Daniels has falsely asserted and/or implied that Penn is guilty of ongoing, continuous violence against women." The doc goes on to state: "...while [Penn] has certainly had several brushes with the law, Penn (unlike Howard) has never been arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives (including Madonna) would confirm and attest."

Daniels has declined to comment on the suit, but in October, his lawyers responded by asking that the case be moved from the State Supreme Court of New York to a federal district court. The request was due to the fact that Daniels lives in New York and Penn lives in California, and the amount of the lawsuit -- $10 million in damages -- qualifies the case to be heard in a federal court.

However, in November, Daniels withdrew his Notice of Removal and agreed to pay Penn's legal fees.

"Daniels has agreed to withdraw his Notice of Removal, and to have this matter remanded to the Supreme Court of the State of New York," reads a letter obtained by ET from Daniels' lawyers to United States District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos. "Further, the parties' resolution includes Daniels' payment of a confidential monetary amount to Penn consistent with the guiding principles of 28 U.S.C. § 1447(c)."

Penn's lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, told ET in September that the Gangster Squad star has "been subjected to false and baseless attacks for years."

"This is only the most recent example," Rosengart said about Daniels' comments. "As asserted in the lawsuit, there are important issues at stake, including the malicious and reckless repetition of rumors and innuendo at the expense of others."

WATCH: After Two Marriages, Sean Penn Says Charlize Theron Would Be First That Matters

Penn was married to Madonna from 1985-1989, during which time -- and years later -- tabloids would speculate on alleged troubles in their relationship. Penn did serve 33 days in prison in 1987 for assaulting a photographer.

Although these days, Madonna and Penn are clearly on good terms. In October, the Oscar-winning actor was seen gazing adoringly at his ex-wife from the front row of her concert in Vancouver, Canada.

Watch below:

Madonna's Ex Sean Penn Came to Her Concert, And She Performed a Song About Him


Read Full Story

From Our Partners